My sister Kim is Moana and how that can help us to be happy too - by guest blogger Kristine Hunter


“The journey may leave a scar, but scars can heal and reveal just where you are.”

Take a moment to really think of the truth in that quote. It is from Disney’s Moana. The grandmother, the voice of wisdom and truth, comes to Moana and sings to her this gem. The first part of the quote hits home for almost everyone journeying here on earth. Our journey may have scarred us at some point. We’ve been hurt, disappointed, broken or bruised. Not all of us carry a scar quite as visible as my sister, Kim, does. Hers is a scar from a trachea that provided air support while she literally fought for her life in a hospital bed. She has become very open about reliving this trauma in her life. I believe that is in large part due to the second part of the quote becoming true for her. Her scar has healed and helped to reveal just where she is. She knows who she is, what she is capable of, and she didn’t let a harrowing experience define her.

So, after watching Moana I came to the conclusion that Moana is Kim. It’s a little ironic that the Disney character most like my sister is fast-paced, physically strong, and incredibly capable. Kim isn't very fast unless her wheelchair has a full charge, not very strong (in the physical sense), and her capabilities are extremely limited considering she is paralyzed from the shoulders down. We can learn a lot from Moana. But I have learned even more from Kim.

Moana faces Te Ka for the first time with Maui at her side. After his precious hook is damaged, he abandons Moana and her quest. Maui tells Moana that the ocean chose wrong. He leaves her with doubts of who she is and what she can do. This is the moment in the movie that represents Kim’s injury. Kim was a strong, independent woman who knew she could make it on her own; she didn’t need her parents or anyone. Then she loses the use of her arms and legs. Her independence is gone. There must have been the temptation to think that she was left with nothing, that her journey had come to an end. Just like Moana, Kim may have wanted to throw her mission in life to the bottom of the sea.

But then comes the pivotal moment. Moana’s grandmother appears with sound advice. In a Disney movie, it takes a whole four minutes for Moana’s determination to return. In life, I think that our determination is found a little more slowly. But we can use moments of great spiritual renewal similar to Moana’s to drive us forward on our path. Kim has a very strong relationship with her grandmother, just like Moana. This blog is named after one of her grandma’s favorite sayings! Kim’s relationship with her grandma and her good advice were key factors in building Kim back up after her accident. In Moana, I love this scene with the grandmother and all of the other ancestors surrounding Moana and buoying her up. But my favorite part is the moment when Moana dives in to get the heart of Te Fiti and she resurfaces to a black and silent ocean. All alone. I think it so beautifully represents those moments in life where we are tempted to forget where we come from. We know we have had feelings of great strength, great faith, great power, but in moments of darkness we might be tempted to think, “was it all a dream?” or “maybe I imagined it.” But people like Kim, and Moana, hold onto their moments of strength to push them forward. Moana fixes her boat, healing her scar, and believes in herself.

“I am Moana of Motunui. Aboard my boat, I will sail across the sea and restore the heart of Te Fiti.” 

She has a mantra to keep herself going. She has such determination. I know all of our trials require determination. Think of something to keep you going. Repeat it to yourself. Kim listed her blessings. Kim looked over positive feedback on Ebay. Kim ACTED in a way to help herself find happiness and a way to keep going. If you don’t seek happiness, it won’t find you. Moana and Kim act in such similar ways. Moana finds her happiness. She is literally sailing across the sea in search of happiness. Kim rolls. But they both keep going.

Moana has a mission and she doesn’t forget who she is. “Who am I?” she asks during her talk with her grandmother. She has an answer: “I am Moana!” Outside of a Disney movie, I think Kim is the only person I can imagine singing out her name with as much confidence and pride as Moana did. It just doesn’t fit as well with the song because of its one-syllable-ness. To gain happiness, we need to acknowledge that who we are is important. We matter. You matter. Our happiness is deeply rooted in knowing who we are and being able to love that person. Thus the mantra, "Always be good and you will always be happy." Having confidence that we are being our best selves is what gives us the power to be happy. Kim strives to be her best self and loves herself, despite her setbacks. And she does have setbacks. I know there are people who know Kim and think she is basically perfect. She cries. She makes mistakes. She hurts people’s feelings. She gets angry. She is a real person. But she doesn’t wallow in her worst moments. She repents of them and moves on. She focuses on the good things she has done, and she tries harder to do more good.

Kim, like Moana, is a chief. She is a self-proclaimed leader. I believe happiness is also dependent on finding a way to lead. If you don’t think you have the ability to lead out, well, you do. Find your people. Are they your kids? Your friends? Your brothers and sisters? Your parents? Anybody you know can look to you as a leader. If you are being a good example, you are leading. Happiness will come to you as you love the people you lead. Moana sings, “I’ll lead the way. I’ll have my people to guide me. We’ll build our future together.” She believes in her ability to lead, but she plans on letting her people guide her as well. She has a love for her people, which drives her to stay on her island. Kim was a natural leader. The big sister of six, leading came naturally for her. But what makes Kim a great leader is her love for others. She loves everyone! And everyone I know looks to her as a leader.

Another element of happiness is taking risks. Kim and Moana have both journeyed beyond the reef. Kim went to school, as a quadriplegic, to get her bachelor’s and master's degrees. She had to take risks to accomplish these goals. She had no idea if she would be able to do it. Would she be having a bad day or a good day when she woke up for school? Would her chair work? Would her van work? She had so many reasons to give up. And no one would have thought anything less of her for it. Moana made the journey she needed to make to save her people. Kim’s example has, no doubt, saved hundreds. She gives so many people reasons to keep going. If you take risks, you end up happier than if you hadn’t taken any. You learn and grow. Sitting still doesn’t bring satisfaction.

Taking risks can be difficult and sometimes that can lead to some really hard days. In those moments you need to have a support system to fall back on. One thing I really loved about Moana was that she had two loving parents in her life. This just makes her so much more like Kim! Kim has a mom and a dad who love her and do so much to help her be comfortable and happy. Moana knows she is loved. She depends on her parents and her grandmother, and her friend Maui throughout her journey. Find a support system or take a moment to be thankful for them. This will help you on your journey to happiness.

I wasn't particularly excited for the movie, Moana. And I am typically pretty excited for Disney movies in general. But, to me, Moana seemed an elaborate attempt to get another line of Disney princess items on the shelves for my two little girls to want and not have. I didn't watch it at all until my sister Kim bought it, sent it to me, and told me to watch it. She said it made her cry every time she watched it. Well, that got me excited to see it. After watching it once, I realized Kim’s emotional connection with the movie must come from how many similarities these two strong women share. I saw Kim's experiences in all that Moana overcame.

Kim and Moana’s steps to happiness:

  • Determination.
  • Know who you are.
  • Be a chief!
  • Take risks.
  • Find your support system.